Happy Birthday Diane!
In the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim,2 these kings made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea).4 Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim,6 and the Horites in their hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the border of the wilderness.7 Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh) and defeated all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who were dwelling in Hazazon-tamar.
8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim 9 with Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country.11 So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way.12 They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.
13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people. – Genesis 14:1-16
Maybe you remember the movie Ransom. Mel Gibson plays Multi-millionaire Tom Mullen, whose son is kidnapped. After initially agreeing to pay the ransom Mullen decides to use the ransom money as a bounty. It’s powerful and gripping (at least it was to me when I was a 40-something year old male with growing boys, not yet out of high school). It is a gritty and intense movie, with many plot twists and turns.
I was reminded of it when I read this account of Lot’s rescue by Abram. Only this time, Abram does not put a bounty on the heads of those who abducted Lot, but uses his resources to rescue his nephew. By the way, here we see three of the five capitals at play. The relational capital is immediately obvious: Abram cares for his nephew. Their relationship makes the rescue mission urgently important. Abram has allies.
But that’s not all. Most obvious is the financial capital. The possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and of Lot, and the provisions of Sodom and Gomorrah are in play. And these enemies seek to enrich themselves with ill-gotten wealth.
The enemy will always point to financial capital as most important. The devil seeks to seduce us to trust in our riches rather than in God. For most Christians money is the chief rival god. Jesus says that you cannot serve God and mammon. Paul tells us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. In fact, he says, “It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” – 1 Timothy 6:10 It is gravely difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of God (cf. Mark 10:25).
Money can do much good. It can support missionaries around the world. It can fund the church in our neighborhood. It can purchase housing, food, and clothing. It can allow us to travel to far-away places and experience exciting encounters as we travel. Money is not evil…except when we make it our god.
But Abram – though very wealthy – seems to handle his wealth quite well. And he uses his financial capital to rescue Lot and his family. He pays no ransom, but leverages his resources to do battle and save his nephew.
All this makes me want to reexamine the way I use my money. Diane and I are committed tithers. We have set a habit from our earliest years of marriage of giving the first 10% of our income to the local church. These days, that is a bit nuanced for us. We give to the church of which we are officially still members. But we’re on a one-year absence from that church. This will allow the transition to new leadership there to take hold. So we seek to follow the instructions given in Galatians 6:6: “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” So wherever we visit on a given Sunday we give an offering. We also support local, national, and international mission efforts.
Money can certainly be a rival god, and we need to be on guard constantly against that. For we want to serve God, not money. But money can be a tool for good. We want to use our financial resources as God’s gift for good. How about you?
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